Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 516
Clash in Polyvisia (4)
Two Shiksan soldiers fell and twitched for the last time. Several moments later, three Thundercrash soldiers carefully peeked over their battered cover to check for danger before going to the corpses. One master-sergeant searched the corpses and took a cloth sack from one. Inside were a few pieces of gold and silver.
"Another fool who wanted to run with nothing but scraps," the soldier complained, "Don't they know there's nowhere to go? They might as well surrender."
The attack the night before had blasted the 100 thousand soldiers gathered in the Nasrian Royal Plaza to shreds. Monolith and Thundercrash held the upper hand from thereon. The half-hour-long bombardment covered the whole plaza, and easily 50 to 60 thousand Union troops were either killed or maimed. Only a minority of them managed to escape.
The third Nasrian prince, Daklid, who was about to become the new king, was blasted into the skies by a round that had landed near him. Had it not been for his grand, general attire, the battlefield cleaners wouldn't have recognised the maimed corpse missing half a head and shoulder to be the prince. To identify the half-corpse, a clan of surrendered Nasrian captives were brought to see it. Only then did they get confirmation of the prince's tragic demise.
It took nearly half a month to clean up the whole plaza, mainly due to the sheer amount of puking by victor and loser alike. It was far too horrifying, the sight of blood and flesh, the squelch of each step with the occasional snap or crumble... It was truly a nightmarish hellscape.
The only fortunate thing was that it was the end of the 11th month, when the weather was really cold. The corpses didn't rot fast, but that caused the blood and meat to form together stiffly in a ghastly form which the cleaners had to deal with. Victor or loser, cleaning the battlefield became a punishment for transgressions. Those who came back would make sure to be on their best behaviour.
Eiblont tried to play tough and went on one such assignment, only to not be able to eat for three straight days when he got back. He maintained a vegetarian diet for half a year after that from the sheer disgust at seeing food that vaguely looked as if it used to be alive.
Prince Daklid wasn't the only unfortunate one. Marquis Archiberger Way Chalx of the Canasian corps that rushed in later was also blasted away by a falling shell. His injuries were even worse, but he managed to be rescued by his loyal subordinates. In the following eight days, he was carefully hidden in the western sector as they prepared to break out of the capital.
But with the whole western sector sealed, Thundercrash and Monolith launched an attack at dawn the next day to clear out the remaining Union troops within. Near 100 thousand Shiksans, Nasrians and Canasians fluttered around like leaderless flies without the ability to put up the least bit of resistance. Under savage cannon fire, even the fortifications set up by officers and their men were mercilessly crushed. The remnants of the soldiers either scattered or discarded their weapons for a surrender. If they weren't physically broken, they were surely mentally damaged.
Archiberger was unlucky because his subordinates were far too loyal. Had they surrendered faster, the marquis would have been treated well, but they'd instead fought to the bitter end.
Archiberger's men made two charges at the gates without success. They merely drew Thundercrash's attention, which sent a clan after them. They had to leg it, bringing the injured marquis all around with them. By the eighth day, they were caught up to. Thundercrash's soldiers unrolled the carpet they wrapped the marquis in, only to find that he had long passed away from blood loss.
On the 7th of the 11th month of Year 600, the Union's army sent five Shiksan corps, one Canasian light-cavalry corps and two Nasrian corps, all 500 thousand men, into Polyvisia. Additionally, there were quite a large number of private noble and garrison troops from Nasri that joined the fray, including remnants of units crushed by Thundercrash, making up another 50 or so thousand of them.
After three days of rest, the Union's commander, Pillag, assigned the defence of the outside of the city to those private nobles and garrison forces. He gave the order to the enforcers of the Shiksan corps to kill anyone that dared to turn away from the battle.
The three days of probing attacks caused the ragtag band to complain about their serious orders. Nobody dared boast about their loyalty before the Lord Militant any longer. Anyone that dared pipe on about their patriotism towards their nation would immediately be sent into battle and die for their nation. If they dared ignore orders and desert, they would be shot dead and made an example of.
The 50 or so thousand scraps suffered over 30 thousand losses in the span of three days. The enforcers watching them from the back also lost around a thousand. All the sacrifice got Pillag was the knowledge of Thundercrash's might. After that, he immediately committed all five Shiksan corps into the attack on Polyvisia. After two days, they managed to heavily wound Thundercrash, forcing them to abandon the walls into the city itself.
Then, Pillag intentionally let his men rest for five days in hopes that Thundercrash and Monolith would take the initiative to leave. He didn't want to fight to the bitter end with those two corps. While the Union held numerical superiority, their might was far from comparison to the enemy's. The two-day siege had cost them 70 thousand men. They'd lost an entire corps.
As long as Thundercrash and Monolith didn't retreat, the Union would continue to bleed.
Pillag went over this in his head multiple times and eventually settled on the decision to commit all his forces on the first day to take the city in one fell swoop. He only had the Canasians come along as reserves to prevent the enemy's desperate counterattack from disrupting his rhythm. He also gave the order for all deserters to be shot!
Fortunately, the Union's forces managed to take the western wall with their superior numbers. The enemy had to retreat further in, as was apparent from their later struggles. The enemy wanted to take the wall back from the northern and southern walls, but the brave soldiers of the Union managed to keep them at bay with their brave sacrifices.
Even without a casualty report, Pillag was aware of the degree of casualties they had suffered up till now. The two Nasrian corps he ordered to serve the role of cannon fodder immediately retreated to their camp after the city was breached. However, only a corps and slightly more returned from the battle. They had lost nearly half their number, and Prince Daklid wasn't pleased. However, Shiks also suffered just as many casualties, no less than one corps, at least, so the prince sucked it up even though he didn't like it. All he did was excuse himself from further battles due to the casualties they suffered.
Only after the three remaining Shiksan corps occupied the western wall and entered the western sector did they discover the enemy still stubbornly resisting. Pillag felt it was rather peculiar. He couldn't figure out why the Auerans had yet to retreat. Such behaviour usually didn't happen after the walls were conquered.
He was well aware through his scouts, casualty estimates and reports from Nasrian spies that the enemy had less than a corps of fighting men left. Since Thundercrash clashed with the Union in Durmel, they lost so many that they only had a folk left. The folk of reinforcements from Monolith and the casualties they suffered during the siege put the remaining fighters around only 40 thousand.
With the wall now breached, around 160 thousand Shiksan troops entered the city. They were around five times the enemy's number and resistance was completely futile. Though feeling uneasy about the fishy situation, Pillag was confident his men would eventually give him a detailed report of their victory.
However, he had placed his attention all on the new rifles and cannons of the enemy, completely ignoring the not-eye-catching helmets of the enemy. He had wondered why they would wear something so heavy on their heads, but soon, his informants told him the true reason they carried those things around.
The Nasrian informants said that Thundercrash's troops could remove their helmets to boil water and prepare their dried rations during break time, making a pot of hot meat porridge quickly and easily. Pillag immediately gained an epiphany: since Thundercrash were in enemy territory, when they could have their next meal would always be a question they had to worry about. However, it would be hard to maintain the troops' morale with only dried rations.
For the troops' health and morale, they were given metal helmets with which they could use to make hot food almost anywhere. That would decrease the rate of sickness among the troops. Each helmet could cook enough for one person and was easily washed. As long as there was a freshwater source, the troops could boil it with their helmets for some warm water or cook with them.
Thus, the real use of the helmets completely flew over Pillag's head. He didn't factor them in his estimations of the enemy's casualties, opting to multiply the normal casualty rate by three since the Shiksan corps had three times the enemy's number. So, he came to the conclusion that there were less than 40 thousand enemy troops in the city.
In fact, Claude had around 70 thousand troops, almost double of Pillag's estimations. He had the logistics and administrative officers take part in the battle to confuse the enemy and make them take the bait. The officers learned many of the same skills the troops in those two corps had to. Claude believed that soldiers were soldiers and true divisions between martial and administrative troops shouldn't exist so that they could all be deployed in crucial times.
When Pillag realised that the enemy didn't retreat because of the treasures in the capital, he immediately downgraded his opinion of the enemy a few ranks. He thought that they were only powerful because of their advanced weapons and pathetic when it came to tactics, seeing how greedy and short sighted they were in not being willing to prioritise a retreat.
Later, the Canasian corps entered the city to 'attack' the enemy whilst fighting the other troops for their fair share of the treasures. That spurred Prince Daklid to do the same with his men. Pillag even sent a few ordermen into the city in hopes that the Canasian marquis and the Nasrian prince could lead the attack.
However, the ordermen he sent never returned. Only the last one lucked out and managed to return after an hour or so of running. He reported that it was too chaotic inside the city and he couldn't locate either of them as a result. Nobody he asked knew their whereabouts, many saying that they couldn't even locate their own superior officers. Some officers, on the other hand, had completely lost their subordinates.
The enemies in the city were still resisting, but the sound of gunshots was getting quieter and less frequent as time passed. Both sides of the roads were lined with corpses and injured, but it was hard to tell whose side they were on given the darkening sky. The Union's army gradually gained more and more control over the areas and many troops dashed for wherever guns were fired.
After listening to the orderman's report, Pillag finally felt relieved, thinking that the results of the battle were set in stone. The prince's corps and the Canasian corps just entered the city, near 300 thousand of them, so there was no way the enemy could fight their way out of that.
Loud explosions suddenly rang out in Polyvisia during the darkest moment before day broke. From the distance, the city seemed like an erupting volcano, with smoke, soot, flashes, explosions, thunderous booms and embers flowing out of the western wall. It was as if they could hear the cries of agony brought by the wind all the way from the Union's camp.
Pillag charged out of his tent and looked at the city with his telescope. He didn't take note of the cold in the slightest, despite his light clothing and heavy shivering. Even as his adjutant tried to put a windbreaker around him, he pushed him aside.
The rumbling went on for a good half hour before calming down. Pillag was completely dumbfounded. When his adjutant came up to him again, he found the man's face to be completely pale. Sweat formed on his forehead as he repeated the phrase 'we fell for it' nonstop.
The Lord Militant only snapped out of it a good moment later. He ordered his attendants to check if the Union's troops still held the western wall.
Within ten minutes, one of the attendants returned to inform him of the enemy's reclamation of the wall. His comrade didn't believe the Lord Militant's inference, so he didn't even care about subtlety in the slightest as he loudly chatted when they approached the city. Then, a gunshot rang from the wall before he collapsed onto his mount the next moment.
Pillag was completely speechless with his expression grave. He waved his attendant away. A moment later, he had his adjutant pass on the order for all Shiksan troops in the Union's camp to pack up and leave when day breaks.
The only ones left in the camp were Pillag's direct-command line from the royal guard. Most of them were citizens from his fief. The logistics troops, guards and healers belonging to the five Shiksan corps were there as well, making their total number around 60 thousand.
The adjutant was shocked to hear that order and quickly asked the Lord Militant the reason for his ridiculous order. Polyvisia was just about to fall, so how could they leave like that? There were many troops of the Union in the city. Even if the western wall was retaken, they could just take it back.
Pillag grimaced and said that if they didn't leave within two days, they would never be able to leave for good. By the time their own comrades in the city were dealt with, it would be their turn. If they were to leave, they had to do it fast. Even if they did, the enemy might still be able to catch up.
So, he summoned the commanders in his line and instructed them to take all the grassland horses left behind by the Canasians. All those who didn't know how to ride ought to let the horses pull carriages to retreat with the rest.
By the time the troops in the city either surrendered or were wiped out, five days had passed since they first fell for the bait. Claude gave Eiblont two lines and sent him to hunt down the Union's troops outside the city.
But when Eiblont reached their camp, he found that there was not a single Shiksan there. There were only Nasrian and Canasian injured and their logistics staff. After asking those captives, he was told that Commander-in-chief Pillag Xi Feriot had retreated with all Shiksan troops four days ago alongside Nasrians and Canasians willing to follow him. They were said to be heading for Shiks.
They even forcefully robbed the Canasian corps of 80 thousand of their horses as well as many of their coachmen, not to mention all the carriages in camp.
Eiblont immediately gave chase, but gave up three days later. He had been travelling nonstop during the whole time, but it was no longer possible to stop the Shiksans at the Nasrian border at that rate.